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Pennsylvanians with minor, nonviolent marijuana criminal convictions could be pardoned beginning Thursday in a period until the end of the month under a joint effort from Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf and Lt. Gov. John Fetterman.
The so-called "one-time, large-scale pardon effort" will allow anyone who has been convicted of possession of marijuana or small amount of personal use to apply. There is no limit for the age of conviction.
The application is free, and entirely online.
Republican Sen. Mike Regan, a former U.S. marshal who spent years fighting the drug wars, is now calling for marijuana to be legalized in Pennsylvania.
“I think it’s inevitable,” said Regan, R-Cumberland/York counties. “It’s common sense to think we’re going to do it at some time and it should be done smart.”
Regan’s bill would allow adults to use marijuana for recreational purposes. Gov. Tom Wolf signed the law allowing marijuana for medicinal purposes in 2016.
The event comes the same week that two state lawmakers from western Pennsylvania unveiled new legislation to decriminalize, regulate and tax adult-use, recreational marijuana statewide. The proposal was not immediately listed on the state Legislature’s website, but it will be labeled House Bill 2050, said sponsors state Reps. Jake Wheatley and Dan Frankel, both D-Allegheny.
Pennsylvania Democrats, as expected, are trying again to legalize adult-use cannabis through legislation.
State Reps. Jake Wheatley and Dan Frankel on Tuesday introduced House Bill 2050, which would create a recreational marijuana market with limited licensing, a social equity emphasis and a retail sales tax rate that would begin at 6% and gradually go up to 19% by the fifth year.
Pressure has increased on Pennsylvania to legalize recreational marijuana sales now that neighboring New Jersey is preparing to launch a market next year.
New Jersey officially became the 13th state to legalize marijuana as Gov. Phil Murphy last week signed three bills that put an exclamation point on the will of Garden State voters. Twenty other states, including Pennsylvania, have legalized medical marijuana use. The federal government still considers any marijuana use as a crime.
Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf, as expected, has made legalizing recreational cannabis one of his administration’s top legislative priorities this year.
Wolf highlighted recreational marijuana in his budget proposal Wednesday and mentioned the urgency given adult-use legalization in neighboring New Jersey and the legalization push in New York.
“Now as our neighbors move toward legalizing recreational marijuana, we cannot afford to be left behind,” Wolf said in a news release laying out his legislative plan. The plan didn’t provide licensing details.
Recreational marijuana legalization victories at the ballot box in Arizona and New Jersey this month have set the table for adult-use legalization in a handful of nearby states in 2021 – with more than $6 billion in business opportunities possibly up for grabs within a few years.
“New York, Connecticut, Maryland, New Mexico are ripe for 2021” to legalize recreational use through their legislatures, said Steve Hawkins, executive director of the Washington DC-based Marijuana Policy Project.
With voters in neighboring New Jersey set to vote in November on whether to legalize adult use of marijuana, Gov. Tom Wolf on Thursday renewed his call for the General Assembly to act on legalizing marijuana in Pennsylvania.
Republicans in the both the state House and Senate once again made it clear they were not interested in doing so.
Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf is asking state legislators to legalize recreational marijuana, saying the government could use the tax revenue to support small businesses and to fund restorative justice programs.
The governor's call to legalize the sale and use of marijuana is part of a broader plan that Wolf says will help Pennsylvania's economy, which is suffering from months of shutdowns and slowdowns due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Out of crisis comes opportunity.
The coronavirus pandemic has slowed most traditional business to a dead stop. But in Pennsylvania, it has sparked a near revolution in the way the marijuana industry operates.
“It’s a hell of a thing,” said William G. Roark, a Philadelphia-area attorney with a cannabis law practice. “We may not be able to buy bourbon at a liquor store, but we now live in a world where we have drive-thru medical marijuana.”